Drinking can be fun, but too much alcohol can lead to injury, accidents, serious embarrassment, and long-term health problems. Drinking can be part of a healthy lifestyle as long as you learn as much as you can about the effects of alcohol on the body.
It is recommended healthy adults drink a max of 2 standard drinks per day and only 4 standard drinks on a single night or day out. A standard drink contains about 10 grams of alcohol, which is the amount your body can process in 1 hour. How much alcohol you can handle depends on your age, weight, gender and how you feel.
Drinking more than your daily dose can increase your risk of accident, injury or hangover. Drinking too much regularly also increases your risk of developing a long-term chronic condition like heart disease, cancer, liver disease, mental illness or brain damage.
Alcohol enters your bloodstream through your stomach and small intestine. If your stomach is empty when you start drinking, the alcohol will enter your bloodstream more quickly. So, eat before you down your first drink, and while you are drinking.
It is easy to drink more than you realize. A standard drink is a can or a bottle of mid-strength beer, a 100ml of wine or a 30ml shot of spirits. Drinks served in bars or restaurants often contain over 1 standard drink.
Set yourself a drinks limit and stick to it. Avoid drinking in rounds, especially with friends who drink too much. Try to finish your drink before you start another rather than topping up your glass.
The amount of alcohol in your blood influences how alcohol affects you. The higher your blood alcohol concentration, the more at risk you are of injury or overdose. Your body can only process 1 standard drink per hour. The faster you drink, the higher your blood alcohol concentration. To keep safe, slow down your drinking to 1 drink per hour.
When you binge drink (drink over 4 drinks in 1 session) and get drunk, you are more likely to get hurt, put yourself in a dangerous situation, embarrass yourself, or even suffer alcohol poisoning. Do not mix alcohol with energy drinks as this can make you drink more. Be careful about how much you drink if you have taken any other drugs or medicines.
It is against the law to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 as the level of being legally intoxicated, drivers under 21 must have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.00 (that’s zero tolerance). However, there is no safe level of alcohol if you are driving. The more drinks you put away, the more likely you are to have a road accident – and that accident could involve another person, not just you.
Drinking alcohol can be more harmful to some people. The safest option for pregnant, breastfeeding, on meds, children and young people under 18 is not to drink any alcohol at all.